Do you want to take photos of your baby’s first year that are meaningful and tell an actual story?
If so, I invite you to read this blog post.
Cutesy photos of your baby can be adorable. But they more often than not miss meaning and depth. In contrast, photos that tell an actual story of each stage of your baby and family’s life are authentic and meaningful.
Here I will share three simple, actionable tips to stop taking snapshots, cutesy photos of your baby. And start making photos that actually mean something.
When my baby was born, I decided to document the first year of his life through photos. My goal was to make an album from these images. So, I was regularly taking photos of him with my ‘big camera’.
When my baby was about seven months old, I realized that my approach to how I was documenting his first year of life was all wrong! As I went through the images, all I could see were cutesy baby photos.
Yes, lots of them were adorable! Babies are so cute by nature that any baby photos, regardless of what they are about or how good or bad our technical photography skills are, are simply lovely. We just cannot go wrong with a baby photo, especially if it is of our own little bundle of joy.
Buuuuut, there was just something missing.
The photos did not really tell a story of his first year of life at all.
They were just pretty.
Most of the photos did not show what I actually wanted to remember from his first year of life. Things like our everyday routines, the beautiful love and bond that my husband shared with him. Also, I wanted to be in the photos myself. I wanted to see what his first home looked like.
Because I am part of a few mom-with-a-camera photography groups, I ended up getting caught up in making photos like everyone else was doing. Do you know those photos that all mommies are posting on Instagram with cute muesli blankets? Cute crib setups? Yes, those! I would come up with the idea beforehand, I would set everything up while my baby was napping, and then, in-between naps, I would take photos of him.
But here is the funny part – I just sucked at taking those photos. They didn’t reflect me, or my baby. Plus, I constantly felt so exhausted when taking those photos. I was so tired, and sleep-deprived already. Having to set up photos on top of everything else that I had to do as a mother, wife, and working woman, was too much.
It was a painful realization that I had wasted so many opportunities to document our everyday lives authentically. So, I decided to take action and change things right away.
I would like to share simple actionable steps with you today, so you can save yourself time and start documenting meaningful photos of your baby right from the start.
Yes, I said meaningful, not cute. This is my goal for you (and for myself). It is to document your baby’s life in a way that speaks deeply to you and that will remind you, years from now, all of the precious, little everyday moments that you are going through right now. The first year goes by SO, but so quickly. I really encourage you to stop taking cute photos and start taking meaningful ones. These are the ones that you will deeply cherish and that your child will love.
Here are my three tips to create meaningful photos of your baby.
Tip Number 1: Have a running list of story ideas
If you are anything like me, you are running on low fuel and broken sleep. So, I suggest not relying on your memory. Instead, write down (yes, actually write down on a notebook, on your phone, on a board) all the stories that you want to document.
The secret for taking meaningful, storytelling images, is to know the story that you want to capture BEFORE you actually capture it.
In this digital age, we have so much storage capacity in our phones and cameras. It is just so easy to take dozens, if not hundreds of photos without giving any thought to why we are taking them. We just mindless press a button. It doesn’t cost anything anyway, so why bother?!
The problem with this is that we end up with a bunch of snapshots, not real photos that represent something.
So, know your story before you take a photo. Know what you want to document, what matters to you, what is meaningful.
To help you with this process, all you need to do is to stop and think: what is meaningful about my baby’s life right now? What do I want to remember one year from now? Five years from now?
Actionable Tip 1 | Right now, if possible, write down some meaningful:
- Objects/toys that your baby loves
- Locations, both inside your home and outdoor
- Milestones that your baby is going through at present
Examples from my list:
- Location/object: My baby on the Dockatot. My baby spent a lot of time on his Dockatot during the early months. So, I wanted to make sure I took a photo of it that would remind me of this stage.
- Milestone: My baby putting his feet in his mouth. Yes, it is something small, but I just loved this baby milestone.
Tip Number 2: Include relationships and routines
The photos that I love the most from my baby’s first year of life are the ones that include both my husband and my son. My beloved husband is like the best dad ever. And I wanted my son to see that during his babyhood year.
But here, I don’t mean those snapshots when both are looking straight into the camera. No. I mean those photos that show their relationship, their bond. It shows that moment taking place that I capture with my camera without them even realizing it.
Also, in this step, I encourage you to include the everyday routines and mundane events that are special to you at the moment, and that these special relationship moments tend to unfold naturally.
Actional Tip 2 | Revisit the list and try to come up with ideas of how you can document your baby with important people in his or her life, and those daily routines that are special or unique to your baby’s current stage.
Examples from my list:
- Husband and baby reading together with the baby on his lap
- Little helper
- Getting ready for first day at nursery
A side note: here I would have loved to include other people, like grandparents or cousins, on my list. But during my baby’s first year of life lockdown happened. So, it is all about my husband!
Tip Number 3: Anticipate the story you want to tell
Documentary photography is all about photographing into the future.
When you know ahead of time what you want to photograph and you know the story you want to tell, you are mentally ready and prepared to make the photo. So, when the moment that you are WAITING FOR takes place, you take the photo with intention.
This is very different than simply reacting to moments that happen and just taking snapshots. This approach is reactionary. You see a cute moment taking place, you grab your camera/phone and you take a photo. Chances are – you missed the moment by one millisecond. And, the photo sucked. Sorry, but it is true.
Good, strong storytelling photos don’t just happen. They are planned. They are anticipated.
Actionable Tip 3 | When you note that one of those stories you have written down is about to take place, grab your phone/camera, and get ready ahead of time.
For example: My husband loves taking daily walks with our son. When he was a baby, he would put him in the Ergobaby and just go to the park next to our house in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Because this was a moment I wanted to document, when my husband would announce that he was going to take our baby for their daily walk, I would get the camera ready. I would anticipate the moment, know the story I wanted to document, and then make the photo.
But what if you miss the moment? The great news is that you are very likely to get another chance again in the near future. That’s the beauty of photography daily stories as they repeat again and again. Just keep that idea/story in mind, and give it another go.
Bonus tip: self-portrait
If you are anything like me, you are all about being the official storyteller in your family. This means that you are rarely in the photos yourself. So, my bonus tip is to make sure that you add to your running list of story ideas moments that you are included in the story too. Then, you can just ask your partner, relative, or your older child to take the photo for you. You can also include yourself by taking photos in front of the mirror, setting up in a tripod, or just including a part of your body in the frame.
Regardless of how you include yourself in the photos, just make sure that you are also part of it. Your child will thank you later on for taking the time and making the effort to show up in your family’s photo history!
If you need to take one thing out of this post, here it is: write down story ideas of things that mean something to you about your baby’s first year of life. Just the action of writing those stories down will make you aware of what you want to photograph. This will impact your images in a way that they will slowly start to go from boring snapshots to meaningful and authentic storytelling photos.
What to do next?
If you have questions about this post, just send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to help!
Also, I invite you to share your storytelling masterpiece with me. If you would like feedback on the images, I record short videos sharing my feedback so you can continue improving your storytelling skills, you can quickly upload your image here (email: email@example.com). I would to see how you implemented these tips and made meaningful photos of your baby!
If you feel overwhelmed with having to DIY your baby’s first year photos, you might want to consider hiring a professional photographer instead. I’m here for you!